OSCAR Shorts Special: Cyrus Neshvad On The Red Suitcase

Cyrus Neshvad speaks to Close-Up Culture about his OSCAR-shortlisted short film, The Red Suitcase.

The short takes place at Luxembourg Airport, where a veiled 16-year-old Iranian girl is frightened to take her red suitcase on the automatic carpet. She keeps pushing back the moment to go through the arrival gate and seems more and more terrified.

Can you tell us where the inspiration came from for the storyline of your short film, The Red Suitcase?

My parents are constantly in contact with our family in Iran. When I heard 2 years ago from my mother that women expressing their opinions in Tehran are regularly disappearing, I got terrified and decided to write with my screenwriter The Red Suitcase.

The story plays out in the confines of Luxembourg Airport. What were the challenges faced when setting your story in this location?

The challenges of shooting in the airport were for me not important. The real challenge for me was how to use this airport in order to express something about the lead character. The feeling of her loneliness by using big spaces where she is often all alone surrounded by posters of women from occident whom all seem happy and free.

But if we watch closely, even these women from the occident are somehow trapped, not free. Their body is used to sell products. If we watch closely at these posters, behind their perfect smiles, these women are sad, as I tried to show in the very end of the movie.

The narrative follows a veiled 16-year-old Iranian girl who appears afraid to take her red suitcase through the airport arrival gate – and it’s soon revealed that she’s being forced into a life-changing situation. How important was it for you personally to tell this particular story?

I wanted to follow a woman who stands up for her rights, the same rights that a man has: Free will. 

A crucial plot point is when we see her remove her headscarf/hijab, was there a particular message you wished to express in the symbolism of that scene?

In Iran, taking off the Hijab is a sign of the Revolution of women. I not only wanted that she takes her Hijab off very slowly and emotionally, but for her to take it off by watching deeply through the lens of the camera. She is then showing and giving the message to all the women to join her by also taking their Hijab off.

Women in Iran face ongoing challenges, and once again what’s happening in Iran is making news headlines around the world. As a filmmaker from Iran, how do you hope this film highlights the reality that so many women(and indeed, men) in Iran can face on a daily basis?

I decided to do The Red Suitcase 2 years ago because nobody knew what was going on in Iran. And for me, it was important to give this point of view. Today as everybody knows the truth about Iran, perhaps I would have done a different movie.

The Red Suitcase is now shortlisted for the 95th Academy Awards, in the “Live Action Short Film” category. What are the blessings and the challenges of having a film that’s a potential Oscar contender?

My dream would be to say “Hi” to Steven Spielberg.

Finally, what do you hope audiences take away from watching The Red Suitcase?

The tenderness of this young Iranian girl.

For more – Cyrus Neshvad

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